Dear Vicki: I need help with my best friend who has really changed. Tammy and I have been close since grade school, but things are really different since she got married. She used to be a real carefree kind of girl, but when she started dating Fred, that changed. They just got married (I thought it was too soon, we’re all only 19), but they say they’re in love. Anyway, Fred is a super-serious person (personally, I think he’s a boring, demanding snob) and I’m afraid he’s changing Tammy. She’s withdrawn from me and seems cold and critical. I’ve only been invited over to their new apartment once. The Five Elements model is new to me (my mom shared it with me), but since Tammy is a great artist (and sometimes moody), maybe she’s a Water? Mom says I’m an Earth. Can you help me get my best friend back? Signed: Lonely in Louisiana
Dear Lonely:The transition from childhood to adulthood is rarely easy. I agree with you that 19 years old seems young to make the serious commitment of marriage, but I know dozens of couples that married young and grew old together. I also know many young couples that were unable to make marriage work and simply grew apart as they continued growing up. It’s understandable that you will feel “displaced” as Tammy’s closest connection now that she’s married; that is also part of growing up. However, if we are wise, we don’t replace people in our life when we marry, we make room for more. Hopefully, Tammy will learn this, but until then I do think there is something specific you can do to try to re-establish your connection with Tammy, who does sound like a Water person.
When we marry, we combine our energies with the energies of our new spouse. That means that Tammy’s Water is constantly in touch with Fred’s Metal. The good news for Tammy is that she and Fred relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with Fred’s Metal feeding Tammy’s Water. That probably feels pretty good to her and might be one aspect of her attraction to him. Interestingly, you and Fred also relate on the Nurturing Cycle, but it is your Earth that feeds his Metal, which could feel like a drag to you and be a reason you find him demanding. Another reason he might bother you – other than the fact that you feel he has come between you and your best friend – is that out of balance Metals can seem snobby and controlling, especially if they are in an excess energy place. Too much energy makes Metals inflexible and dismissive. How Tammy handles that is between her and Fred, but let’s look at what you can do to reconnect with Tammy.
Dear Vicki: I am a recently divorced Earth. My Wood husband and I separated early last year and I’d hoped we’d get back together. But several months ago he stopped by, told me it was time to get on with it, and handed me papers to sign. I was shocked. But according to my lawyer it was a fair settlement, we could get a great price for the house, so I signed. Now I feel lost and lonely. My one child is married with a family and lives out of state. She has offered for me to come stay with her, but I think that just prolongs the pain. My ex is probably right: It IS time to get on with it. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine my life going forward. I really don’t want anything new. I just want my old life with my old husband and my old house. But that’s all gone. How do I start over? Can the Five Elements help? Signed: Sad and Single
Dear Sad and Single: I am so sorry you’re going through this. It is very hard to cope when change is thrust upon us rather than something we select. And as an Earth, the end of a marriage and loss of the home where you raised your daughter is even harder because home and family are so important to Earths. You don’t mention if you have a counselor, but if not, I urge you to consider one. And yes, the Five Elements do offer wisdom regarding how you can start over. It rests in the model itself.
If you look at the model, it’s actually a road map for starting and stopping. The decreasing energy of stopping something flows along the Controlling Cycle represented in the model by the star pattern. The building energy of starting something flows along the Nurturing Cycle, which is represented by the circle pattern. Because you want to start something new, we will be using the Nurturing Cycle to help you.
Dear Vicki: In your recent post to Angry in Alaska, you mentioned that if a Metal person senses too much Wood energy in someone, the Metal will automatically want to “prune” that Wood. Is this true for all Controlling Cycle relationships? I’m a Fire and seem to have fallen in love with a Water. Jenna is serious and can be moody, but she’s also an amazingly creative author who has several published novels. We’ve been together for a few years now and I’ve noticed that when I’m dancing and having a great time at a party, Jenna does seem to throw water on my flames by saying something mean or cutting. It’s like she can barely tolerate me. When I ask her about it later, she acts like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I love her, but it feels bad to be insulted in front of friends, even if I might have been a bit wild. Is this something Jenna does automatically because see thinks my Fire is out of control? If so, how do Controlling Cycle relationships ever last? Signed: Drowning in Downey
Dear Drowning: The quick answer to your question is that Controlling Cycle relationships last because we all need the balancing affect of control in our lives. Too much of anything, even something as wonderful as fun and laughter, isn’t good for us. Too much of anything is, by definition, a loss of balance and the Five Elements model is all about maintaining balance. The Controlling Cycle is the way the model addresses too much of something, while too little of something is addressed via the Nurturing Cycle. These reducing and building tendencies translate to our relationships, too. But in a culture where more always seems better than less, Controlling Cycle connections can seem harsh. Yet they are just as great a gift as a Nurturing Cycle connection. Sometimes, even more.
In your case, too much Fire can and will burn you out. In nature, fire has very little structure; it’s actually just heat made visible. At a personality level this lack of structure manifests as a tendency to have fewer boundaries than the other elements. Interestingly, as a Water, Jenna doesn’t have great boundaries herself. But water in nature is definitely more solid than fire, so Jenna will have more structure than you do. And her gift to you is to cool you down before you burn yourself out. She may do this in ways that seem mean – and we will come back to that in a minute – but she really can be acting in your best interest.
Dear Vicki: I read your blog pretty regularly and think I understand the Five Elements, but one area confuses me. You describe Metals as being logical and process oriented, which I understand because I am a Metal. However, my good friend Sherry is a Fire and I swear I see her behave in ways that seem to me to be serious and infinitely reasonable. Am I rubbing off on her? She does seem to rub off on me at times; I certainly have more fun when she’s around. But there are so many times that she drives me crazy, I’d like to see her be more Metal more often. How can she be Metal-like some days and not others? Signed: Wants More Metal
Dear Wants More Metal: This is a great question. While no one would ever confuse a pure Fire personality with a pure Metal, the reality is that we are never purely any one element. As you know from reading this blog, we have all five elements in our makeup. And while our primary element frames how we live life, our secondary element definitely “flavors” how our primary expresses itself. Your primary and Sherry’s primary relate on the Controlling Cycle (Fire melts Metal), so there will definitely be times that her Fire drives you crazy and feels controlling (perhaps even threatening) to your Metal. But as you admit in your letter, there are times that Sherry’s Fire loosens you up and you have fun. That’s the way the Controlling Cycle is supposed to work! It helps bring balance.
As to why Sherry might sometimes appear to be more like a Metal, it’s possible that Sherry has Metal as her secondary. The times it expresses itself might be when you find her “serious and infinitely reasonable.” Most Metals find other Metals to be reasonable. In fact, as you may have noticed, if someone wants to change a Metal’s mind, the best approach is to use logic and reason. Sherry might have figured this out about you and seems more Metal when she’s trying to get her way. It’s also possible that Sherry isn’t really as structured as you think, you just interpret some of her behaviors through your own Metal filter of structure. The famous Maslow quote comes to mind here: “To a man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.” There is no doubt that our primary element colors how we look at the world and her people.
Dear Vicki: We have friends who visit us once a year. She is an out of balance Earth whose conversations center around her grown children that we do not know well. Any attempt to move the conversation to something interesting always fails. And did I mention that she is a talker? I am an introverted primary Water, secondary Metal. Our husbands are happy Woods. While they were here I recognized the Elemental dynamics that were occurring but I could not figure out any survival techniques for myself. The men could easily shut her out, but my attempts were countered by her need to stay near me so that I “wouldn’t be alone.” Fortunately, I was able to escape on a couple of extended errands and one visit to my friend, a male Fire element, whose laughter always balances my energy. But for the most part, I felt suffocated all weekend. Help! I need to learn how to cope without blowing up. Where do I start? Signed: Frustrated in Florida
Dear Frustrated: This does sound like a very unpleasant weekend. I’m so sorry. You have done an excellent job of summarizing what the likely dynamics were between the weekend cast of players, and it’s understandable that events unfold as they do. Two Wood guys can easily shut out an unbalanced Earth, but it’s less easy for you as a Water/Metal to do so. Let’s look at why that might be the case and from there we can develop survival techniques for you to use next year.
First, it’s not surprising that your friend is happy to hang with you instead of two Wood guys. Woods control her Earth, so she probably doesn’t like how she feels around two of them. At home, her Wood husband probably balances her, but when he’s not around to do so, she probably does go into full-blown Earth mode. Family is of utmost important to Earths, so her tendency to talk about her children – grown or not – is also not surprising. Your reaction to her abundance of Earth is predictable, too. An abundance of Earth will likely feel suffocating to your Metal (Earth feeds Metal) and restrictive to your Water (Earth controls Water). But for her, because you are what she feeds and controls, being with you will feel almost compelling. Your energies are the focus of her every outward energetic expression.